Thursday, April 29, 2004

Generals fiddle while soldiers burn

Putting aside whose ribbons got tossed on the lawn in the last millenium for just a moment, there's this nagging Iraq thing...

'a classic example of leadership negligence is our soldiers' current chariot, the Humvee.

As early as Oct. 3, 1993, the Ranger fight in downtown Mogadishu demonstrated the added value of armored Humvees. Subsequent shoot'em-ups in ex-Yugoslavia proved once again how effectively this rugged vehicle protects our grunts.

Yet the high brass, from SecDef Bill Cohen to Donald Rumsfeld to almost a generation of generals, never bothered to adjust their budgets to buy more armored Humvees. And today, troops are being killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan because there aren't enough of these bullet-and-shrapnel-stoppers to go around.

Why is the armored Humvee in such short supply when after-action reports have been shouting its praises since 1993?

For sure, there's been no shortage of cash. Since the need for these obviously essential lifesavers became apparent, the Pentagon has ordered more than $5 trillion of toys ...

Long before Saddam's statue came toppling down in Baghdad a year ago this month, it should have been clear to any career officer with any knowledge of guerrilla warfare that we were about to find ourselves smack in the middle of an insurgent war and needed armored vehicles to more adequately protect our warriors.

But the Pentagon's Cheap Charlie estimate back then was that a mere 235 armored Humvees would do just peachy-keen for the occupation phase of our misadventure in Iraq. Now, after 720-plus dead and thousands of wounded and hundreds of Humvees destroyed or damaged the same geniuses have suddenly concluded that we need more than 5,000 armored Humvees.

The brass' lame excuse is that they didn't expect things to turn violent in Iraq. And considering it took months for Rumsfeld to finally admit that our forces were engaged in a guerrilla war, upping the Humvee order early on might have interfered with the all-pervasive miasma of denial - and who knows how many precious careers.

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